Creativity has run through my veins since I was a young girl and making art has always been a substantial part of who I am. My earliest recognition happened at the age of 4 when I won my first colouring contest. It was an overcast winter day, and I had walked away with an Aero chocolate bar and a smile as bright as the sun. Colouring inside the lines never felt so good.
My early childhood memories flood with visions of crayons, polymer clay, and beaded bracelet making. I never quite mastered the art of drawing, but it wasn't from my lack of attempt.As I became an adolescent, the desire I had to make art stretched thin and my interest in experimenting with drugs grew eminent. I didn't fall into drugs because I felt unloved or pressured, it naturally felt a part of who I was at the time — a wisely independent teenager who was looking for amusement in uncharted waters.
I can't say I ever got into trouble. I always had the luck of the Irish and the grace of the Angels on my side, and for that I thank God. I experimented with nearly every type of drug from the age of 14 - 18 and never once was I questioned or caught. My adolescent years allowed me to master the role of a functioning drug addict; a trait that became truly useful in my mid 20's. It was then I had discovered what it was like to fall hard for cocaine.
I was 26 years old and had just started dating a musician who was not only dreamy but unbelievably familiar to my soul. We had everything in common. We were born at the same hospital, could have found each other in many neighbourhoods growing up and loved to have a good time, all the time. At this point in my life, I hadn't touched drugs since I was 19 and little did I know my journey with them was far from over.
By the time I was 27, my career had reached extreme heights as one of Canada's top makeup artists with an income to match; not to mention my heavy party days had just begun and would last for the next five years straight.
Every weekend, for hours on end I was living life in the fast lane: countless trips to NY, the endless drugs, sex, and rock and roll. It never seemed to end, until it did.
Everyone has a moment in their life when reality doesn't just tap them on the shoulder… it smacks them in the face. At the age of 31, that's precisely what happened to me.
I had lost one of my largest clients and recognized I was utterly drowning in debt. I had fallen dependant entirely on cocaine to feel like I was enjoying life and had convinced myself I could only communicate within my relationship confidently, when high.
I was so incredibly stuck; I could barely see the light within myself.
The day had come where something had to change. I quit doing coke cold turkey. I experienced the most severe anxiety attacks I will ever know but managed to accomplish that feat on my own. It was the first greatest test I had passed. To find success; I forced myself to do things that felt new and uncommon and decided to throw myself at abstract painting because art was something I never did unless I was sober. You could say painting played a part in saving my soul.
I was happy to be creating again and feeling good about my choice not to get high. On the other hand, my partner had other plans in mind and couldn't seem to let it go. I packed an overnight bag and left the most significant trigger I had at the time, which was him. I did reasonably well during this transition, besides having many moments of doubt and feeling like a complete hot mess.
It took less than a month to convince myself it was okay to drink and smoke weed again, as long as I stayed away from the white stuff. I moved back home with my parents and landed my first single apartment only a few months later. I scored a two bedroom flat in one of Toronto's trendiest neighbourhoods. I had a view of the entire city and friends who lived a couple of blocks away from me in every direction. There was a bar across the street that inspired me to sing the theme song to Cheers everytime I walked over, "where everybody knows my name," and it wasn't uncommon to find nothing but rows of beer cans in my fridge. My joint rolling skills became especially impressive and getting high after work became quite the regular habit. I walked away from one mess a year prior and had successfully created an entirely new one. News flash, everything begins within.
I had spent just over a year on my own, and out of nowhere, my life started to unfold in ways I could have never written. The peak of my makeup career was coming to an end. I had met a stranger who placed my soul into an unmeasurable shift and my gifts as an intuitive had paid a visit to me like never before.
On July 3rd, 2017 I had what I can only explain to be an enlightening experience. With the day off from work, I presumed my position on the couch, rolled a joint and got high well before 11 am. Shortly after, I heard a voice tell me this was the last day I was ever going to get high.
Besides living in a decent apartment and having a decent career, my life barely felt decent and certainly far from successful. I was still abusing drugs, still drowning in debt, very unhealthy and had felt entirely lost. Who was I to question this voice?
The conversation between us continued and as of July 4th, 2017, I have remained sober proclaiming my independence from drugs and alcohol for over 17 consecutive months.
No sooner did I announce my decision, my entire life changed rather quickly. I wanted to get healthy, and I wasn't going to stop at anything to do so.
I filled four years of taxes, quit smoking cigarettes - a habit which plagued me for well over a decade. I moved back home with my parents, where I still reside. Quit my job because there was nothing left for me to accomplish. I had indeed done it all: the red carpets, billboards, private jets, celebrities, my bucket list on that was in check, and I desired a change. A change for what? I didn't know. I became vegan for a year, started to run, had my first art showing, began to read wellness material and took the opportunity to sleep in every once in a while. Who's kidding? I still do.
My journey has been far from easy, and I'm glad because I believe anything worth talking about takes courage, strength and honest perseverance. I openly discuss my journey as I think knowledge is power; but when Jessica invited me to be a part of her Conversations About Death project, I only agreed on account of my intuition. I had no clue how my declaration and death related to one another.
With much surprise and delight in finding my answer earlier this month, it was made very clear I had skipped past a considerable part of my journey which was to say goodbye to my oldest and dearest friend.
An insert of my journal entry from Dec. 4th, 2018:
"Today I celebrate 17months of sobriety & mourn an old friend I haven't seen in a very long time. Vanessa, I love you, and I appreciate everything you went through for me.
It will be impossible to love anyone as deeply as I love you. It's been so long since we last saw each other. I wish I could hug you. I hope you are doing okay and staying out of trouble! Haha Is it sunny where you are? Do you hear birds singing? I ask that you always hold your head up high. Always know how special you are and never forget how much space my heart holds for you. I pray you are sleeping well. I love you, and I miss you - but I'm doing pretty wonderful myself."
I am forever grateful for that girl who died in the name of my freedom. Without her bravery, I wouldn't be half the woman I am today.
Vanessa Jarman, Toronto, Ontario